F U L L . R E V I E W S

U.D.O - Thunderball 2004 AFM Records Reviewed by: EC

Track Listing
1. Thunderball
2. The Arbiter
3. Pull The Trigger
4. Fistful Of Anger
5. The Land Of The Midnight Sun
6. Hell Bites Back
7. Trainride In Russia (Poezd Po Rossii)
8. The Bullet And The Bomb
9. The Magic Mirror
10. Tough Luck II
11. Blind Eyes
If Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio can be looked to as metal's grandfathers, I would call this little German Uncle Udo. For twenty five years Udo Dirkschneider has been delivering his brand of sleek metal mayhem, with his main hint of success being with superstars Accept, seeing tours with the likes of Guns 'N Roses and Scorpions in the 80s. After his split from the group in '96, Udo went back to his side-project, the aptly titled U.D.O, where he had released four records prior to his departure from Accept. Since '96 he has released four records and a live album. Now we see record number five, "Thunderball", which shows up this time around on the AFM label, his debut for the company and first to hit US shores through The End Records distribution.

Any fan worth his weight knows U.D.O, and really doesn't need the play by play from me. U.D.O has always been Accept version 2.0, enlisting the services of Accept drummer turned guitarist in Stefan Kaufmann back in '97, letting even more of that band's sound creep into the U.D.O ideology of songwriting. "Thunderball" marks the band's third record using this lineup, something Udo himself really isn't all that familiar with. His band has always had a revolving door, and now it looks like he has a pretty solid lineup, with Kaufmann on guitar, Igor Gianola on second guitar, Fitty Wienhold on bass, Lorenzo Milani behind the drums, and Uncle Udo at the helm. This is probably my favorite lineup of the band's history, and I for one would really consider U.D.O to be the very next step of Accept, never giving the Accept discography a listen without throwing in a U.D.O record or two. He continues to play Accept songs in his live set, and always carries on that sound with his records. U.D.O is Accept, Accept is U.D.O, let's move on.

I really hate to see this man get passed around by the labels, with Udo signing contracts with GUN ('87-'98), then Nuclear Blast ('99-'02), and now AFM Records. But he always seems to find a home, and he has a zillion fans worldwide standing in line to purchase his albums. With this new record, U.D.O pretty much stays in the same musical formation as his past two records, "Holy" and "Man And Machine". The production is always state of the art, this time around being produced by Stefan Kaufmann at Roxx Studio, and just like prior albums, this one is very groove heavy with a high-end drum sound. People complain that every U.D.O record is just more of the same, and that really could be up for discussion. Call it cookie-cutter metal, or rehashed Accept, either way it is fine to me, as I enjoy every record and can conceivably tell the difference from one album to the next. Your average metal fan really won't care, and to the legions of diehards, U.D.O does no wrong. So let's examine "Thunderball" in detail...

As I mentioned earlier, this fits the same mold as the last two records. You won't find any real speed racers here, but there are plenty of solid hard rockers to be found. I always enjoy the German's rock sensibility, and with each U.D.O record the sound is intensified. Every song is a groove friendly affair, with shiny, classy production values to make each cut sound bombastic and heavy. Take a look at the flashy title track, or the Accept-like "Pull The Trigger" for a perfect example in German sophistication. I love the use of "gang chorus" sing-alongs, and with this album we get plenty. "The Bullet And The Bomb", "Fistful Of Anger", and "The Arbiter" all feature the big chorus chants, making this an easy album to play just about anytime. While the above tracks hammer home the heavy, songs like "The Land Of The Midnight Sun", "The Magic Mirror", and "Blind Eyes" stray from the German hard rock to incorporate a nice dose of atmosphere and mood. I wouldn't call these tracks ballads, but they are slower numbers that really help to mix the album up a bit. Udo even throws in some heavy metal polka with "Trainride To Russia".

Once again U.D.O prove they are on top of their game, with this group of veterans keeping the same pace as previous records. Fans of "Animal House", "Holy", and "Man And Machine" should really enjoy this one. It's not quite as fast as "Timebomb", and certainly not as heavy as "Solid", but still keeps manages to keep that same sort of songwriting intact. Udo knows what his fans want, and this particular formula works well each time. Hopefully Uncle Udo can keep the metal faith happy for many years to come, but as a metal fan always looking ahead, what are we going to do when these types of legends go away? Heroes don't live forever, but let's hope this German has a few more albums left in him. I can't get enough.

Note - Interesting to see this that this album cover closely resembles this year's Metal Church-Weight Of The World and Pink Cream 69's "Thunderdome" releases. All feature steel globes on the cover.

--EC 11.29.04
About this Writer:
Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has contributed to MaximumMetal.com since it's conception in 2003. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia. You can also find him on his paperbackwarrior.com blog discussing all things action and adventure.

Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.

Eric Compton8/17/2005
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Eric Compton11/29/2004


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